Vietnam has one of the highest incidences of birth defects in the world, which scientists have linked to the use of chemicals such as Agent Orange during the war. Children born today are still living with the legacy of the past, and, with expertise and facilities to help most of these patients sadly lacking, many families rely on the help of overseas charities and volunteer doctors.

Facing the World is a United Kingdom-based charity that offers surgery to children with facial disfigurements. All the children offered surgery are from poor countries where they would have no other access to surgery to help them overcome their disfigurements.


Facing the World was set up in 2003 by Norman Waterhouse and Martin Hirigoyen Kelly, two craniofacial plastic surgeons at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Both had formerly volunteered their time and skills to medical outreach charities abroad, but had been touched by cases of children that they were unable to help because of the limited facilities and lack of expertise in the countries in which they were working.

With Facing the World they determined to bring children to the UK for surgery, rather than attempting to perform the operations with the limited infrastructure of the children's home countries. Bringing the children to the UK allowed them to draw on the skills of other like-minded UK medical professionals. Sarah Driver-Jowitt was hired to manage the charity and in 2004 an office was established close to the London hospitals where the majority of the surgeries are performed. The charity was launched publicly on 15 February 2003 at a charity fund-raising premiere of the film Solaris attended by George Clooney and his co-stars.


The charity provides treatment for children from poor countries who have severe facial disfigurements that have significant functional challenges or are likely to cause them deep emotional and psychological trauma as a result of community stigma.

The children are assessed in their own country, so the doctors can ascertain whether the individual could be helped by surgery and what specialist care will be required. If the assessment is positive arrangements are made to fly the child to London for treatment. The medical team donate their services and the charity relies on fund raising and donations to fund the remaining medical costs, travel and accommodation for the child and a guardian.

Film Duration: 44 min